Venture Philanthropy Partners: Investing in Social Change.


Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care


Twenty-two years and hundreds of healthier families after its modest beginnings as a prenatal clinic in a cramped basement office, Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care has grown into a well-respected comprehensive community health organization that provides health, social, and educational services to underserved families—women, men, children, and adolescents—in the District of Columbia. Mary's Center's comprehensive and holistic approach is especially helpful for clients like Lilian, who enrolled in Mary's Center Healthy Families DC program when she was only 14.

Lilian was pregnant, living with her boyfriend's family, and not attending school. When she arrived at Mary's Center, one of the first things that her family support worker Sandra did was to talk with Lilian about what she wanted to do. It was challenging for Lilian to look beyond her situation, but after much discussion she decided she really wanted to graduate from high school. Lilian also wanted to be a great mom. Sandra took Lilian to find a school that would work best for her while she was pregnant and helped her through the registration process. Lilian finished the school year and then attended summer programs, where she excelled in computers, before giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, Ana. She later became the first person in her family to graduate from high school and now plans to attend college. Mary's Center helped make it possible for Lilian to pursue her dreams, and she is determined to provide her daughter Ana with similar opportunities for growth and happiness.

Mary's Center Website

Investment Fact Sheet

Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care
2333 Ontario Road, NW
Washington, DC 20009

Founded in 1988

President & CEO: Maria S. Gomez, RN, MPH
Chair, Board of Directors: Mary McPherson

Mission and History
The mission of Mary's Center is to build better futures through health care, education, and social services that embrace our culturally diverse community.

Mary’s Center was formed in 1988 with funding from the DC Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs and the DC Department of Health to address the need for maternal and pediatric services among Spanish-speaking residents in Ward 1 of the District of Columbia. Mary’s Center has grown from an initial budget of $250,000 to an annual budget of nearly $8 million and serves a multicultural population residing in all Wards of the District of Columbia, as well as Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland.

Mary's Center offers prenatal and postnatal health care, social service case management, home visitation, health care for male and female teens, early childhood and family education, and HIV testing and prevention. In November 2003 the clinic opened to men of all ages. Mary’s Center also operates a family literacy program, a mobile health van, an elementary school health clinic, and manages the District of Columbia’s Healthy Start contract in Wards 1, 2, 4, and 5.

The Center operates at two sites in the Adams Morgan area, one clinic in Ward 4, and offers its family literacy program at Bancroft Elementary School in Mt. Pleasant and comprehensive school-based health services at Brightwood Elementary School.

In 2002, Mary’s Center served nearly 5,000 unduplicated medical patients including 3,082 adults and teens and 2,173 children from prenatal to age 12, and more than 10,000 individuals for non-medical patient programs and services.


Maria S. Gomez, RN, MPH
President & CEO

Maria S. Gomez, a native of Colombia, South America, has led Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care since its beginning 22 years ago, and has been responsible for the phenomenal growth of the Center’s activities in providing health care and related services to the underserved women, children, and adolescents of the District of Columbia. Mary’s Center began as a clinic to provide prenatal and postpartum care for the primarily Latino women of Ward 1 and has grown from an initial budget of $250,000 to an annual budget of nearly $8 million. Mary's Center now serves more than 5,200 individuals and families from across the metropolitan area, and has established a full complement of programs to support its mission, which is to build better futures through health care, education, and social services that embrace our culturally diverse community.

In addition to the outstanding work Gomez has accomplished at Mary’s Center, she has received many awards both for herself and on behalf of the Center, including the Jessie Bernard Wise Woman Award from the Center for Women Policy Studies; the Hispanic Community Leadership Award from the Hispanic Employees Association; Washingtonian of the Year as named by Washingtonian magazine; and the Hugh A. Johnson, Jr., Memorial Award from the Hispanic Bar Association of DC. As recognition for her outstanding leadership skills and management team, in 1999 Mary’s Center received the Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management. Gomez was also named finalist to the prestigious Bender Prize and in 1999 became an Honorary Inductee of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honorary Society of Nursing. In 2001 she received the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Conversation Changers Award and  was also recognized by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for her leadership in providing access to care for Latina women and their children. In 2002 Gomez received the Champions of Choice Award from Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.

Mary MacPherson
Board Chair

Mary MacPherson is the founder of M2Works LLC, an independent consultancy focused on entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial networks and community building, innovation, and regional economic development. She works with organizations on initiatives in these areas and with early stage companies on strategic business and marketing projects.

Mary is an industry executive with a background in both technology businesses and the non-profit community. Her experience includes serving as Senior Vice President of Marketing at Blackboard Inc.; leading the Morino Institute’s programs, activities, and representation in entrepreneurship, including Netpreneur, Greater Washington’s community of early stage entrepreneurs and their stakeholders; responsibilities in marketing, sales, and customer service for MCI; and marketing programs to the Federal government for Apple Computer's Federal Systems Group.

Mary advises a number of non-profit organizations including the Washington DC Tech Council, the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (DC Chapter), The Angels Network, MindShare, and Mary’s Center. She is a member of Women Angels, Women in Technology, and the Potomac Officers Club. She also served on the Boards of the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association and the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and as a Trustee for the Fairfax Education Foundation.

In 2003, Mary was recognized by Women in Technology and the March of Dimes as a Heroine of Technology. In 2001, Washingtonian magazine named her one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington. She holds a BA in American Studies from Mary Washington College.

Investment Summary

Please note: this Investment Summary represents VPP's perspective at the time of the business planning agreement, March, 2005.  


In March, 2005, VPP entered into an investment partnership with Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care, a dynamic organization whose mission is to build better futures through health care, education, and social services that embrace a culturally diverse community. VPP’s investment is designed to help Mary’s Center achieve their aspiration to strengthen overall community health by delivering integrated human services to support individual and family well-being and by expanding their presence to serve more children and families on a broader scale in the National Capital Region.

The Investment Agreement will provide Mary’s Center with strategic assistance and funding of up to $3,000,000 over a four-year period (this is in addition to the $386,000 already provided for the business planning phase). During the first phase of this investment partnership, VPP will provide funding and strategic assistance to help Mary’s Center enhance and augment their infrastructure and begin their expansion in accordance with their new status as a Federally Qualified Healthcare Center (FQHC). Under the terms of this agreement, $800,000 in funding will be disbursed to Mary’s Center in the first year, with the remaining $2,200,000 in funding contingent upon Mary’s Center’s achievement of annual milestones over the remaining term of the investment partnership.

Mary’s Center aspires to strengthen overall community health by delivering integrated human services to support individual and family well-being and by expanding their presence to serve more children and families on a broader scale in the National Capital Region. They are working to better integrate basic human services by connecting a predetermined set of health, social, and education services for families in the heart of the immigrant community of Washington, DC and linking them together to create a sense of “connectedness” to, and within, their community. In addition to expanding services and facilities at its current location in Adams Morgan, they hope to expand to Ward 4 of Washington, DC and to several locations in Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland adjacent to DC, and have already begun discussions with key local leaders and institutions there.

VPP’s funding and strategic assistance supports Mary’s Center in its work to reach its long-term goals, including:

  • Increasing the capacity of the existing management team that can develop, expand, and manage high quality programs in multiple locations;
  • Augmenting the information and management systems infrastructure to support future growth;
  • Opening a second primary service location in Ward 4 in fulfillment of Mary’s Center FQHC obligations;
  • Opening at least two additional primary service locations to provide integrated medical, educational, and social services to underserved families;
  • Opening three new school-based clinics in Washington, DC to provide health care and health promotion activities to school children in the District; and
  • Continuing growth trajectory by partnering with organizations that can offer financial, space, personnel, and other resources to offer delivery of integrated services and accelerate the formation of Mary’s Center’s advocacy, fundraising, and outreach relationships in new neighborhoods and jurisdictions.


  1. Leadership: Maria Gomez is among the strongest leaders in the region, and she has been able to demonstrate her abilities through the continuous growth and expansion of Mary’s Center. She is held in the highest regard by the community she serves and has proven she can raise large amounts of funding, manage a growing and complex enterprise, acquire and build facilities, and navigate successfully through difficult political conditions.
  2. Demonstrated performance in achieving outcomes: While Mary’s Center is committed to improving its focus and implementation of outcomes design and assessment, it has some impressive data to report thus far. Some highlights include:
  3. High-performing nonprofit: Mary’s Center is among the leading community-based organizations in the region and is fast developing a national reputation.
  4. Filling a critical need: Public and private medical, health care, educational, and children’s services institutions in the region regard Mary’s Center as essential to the health and well-being of the city, a critical link in the city’s tenuous health care system, and especially essential to the communities it serves. The immigrant population of the Washington metropolitan region is the fastest growing, yet government and social service agencies have been unable to develop and provide the range of specialized programs and services in culturally sensitive ways that meet community demand. Mary’s Center has the capability to do so, as well as to do so in other localities struggling with the same issues.
  5. Proven best practices: Research demonstrates that early intervention, family support, and the “one-stop-shopping center” concept (comprehensive and integrated services in one location) save millions of dollars in future health care, foster care, social service, and long-term special education costs.


  • Adult Literacy: The average gain on the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System test was 100% higher than the national average gain.
  • Parent-Child Education: Parent attendance at Even Start conferences or informal education sessions at their child's school increased from 44 to 61 percent in one year.
  • Immunization: In 2002, 90% of Mary’s Center 2-year-olds were immunized vs. 76% of 2 year olds citywide.
  • Infant Mortality: Mary’s Center mothers had no (0%) infant mortality, compared with 12% for DC (2000).
  • Healthy Babies: A recent study conducted by the Center for Applied Research and Urban Policy reported the incidence of low-weight births for Mary’s Center Community Healthy Start participants was 3% in 2002 compared with the DC rate of nearly 12%.
  • Teen Mothers: Premature births for teen mothers of all race groups enrolling in Mary’s Center after delivery programs, “Teen Mothers Take Charge” (TMTC) was 11% compared to 20% for African American mothers and 32% for Latina mothers city-wide. Moreover, for the 500 teens enrolled in TMTC, no teen mothers have reported a repeat pregnancy, whereas nationally, 20% of teen mothers are pregnant again within one year of childbirth and 25% have another child within two years.

We believe this investment in Mary’s Center will be successful because of the following key factors:

  1. Outstanding and stable leadership of Maria Gomez, founder, president, and CEO;
  2. Large market need for services;
  3. Success in capitalizing on sources of revenue—public, private, and third-party billing services;
  4. Strong and persistent community and political support from city council members, the DC Board of Education, and the Mayor’s Office of Latino Affairs;
  5. Outstanding reputation among medical and health care professionals;
  6. Ability to form viable long-term partnerships with leading regional medical and educational institutions, including March of Dimes, Georgetown University, Children’s Hospital, and the DC Departments of Health, Mental Health, and Early Childhood Education;
  7. Organizational record of continuous improvement and successful expansion; and
  8. Quality programs and services supported by numerous independent program evaluations.

Mary's Center Website


Mary's Center is a stronger organization and considerably better positioned to extend its reach to underserved communities in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Its effectiveness and sustainability have increased substantially as well. The management team has been greatly enhanced by the addition of a COO.

Key Accomplishments

Mary's Center now has a clear plan for expansion and organizational growth. It opened its first satellite offices to reach greatly underserved children, youth, and families: one in Ward 4, Washington, DC, in an area previously served by one doctor, and one in Silver Spring, Maryland. The new clinics are well-positioned to quickly scale impact. Mary's Center became a Federally Qualified Health Center, bringing funding and critical liability coverage. Other noteworthy accomplishments that contributed to improved capacity and increased effectiveness include:

  • Planning and Focus: Completed business planning in January 2005, facilitated by Monitor Group, resulting in a well-defined expansion plan for growth into underserved areas of DC and possibilities for growth in Maryland and Virginia.
  • Human Capital - Board and Management: Fully integrated Chief Financial Officer and hired a Chief Operating Officer and Director of Outcomes in January 2006.  Improvements to solid board begun with the addition of two new members.
  • Capitalization/Revenue: Receiving status as a Federally Qualified Health Center stabilized model of revenue generation for organization and resulted in $650 thousand a year for three years in direct funding with expected continued funding beyond that time, increased funding through improved reimbursement rates through Medicaid of $322 thousand, $150 thousand in liability insurance savings for a total annualized financial benefit of approximately $1.1 million.
  • Financial Accountability: Completely reorganized the finance function under the direction of the new CFO. Making changes in staffing to bring on board the talent required to support a growing, more complex organization. Selecting a new accounting system and redesigning the accounting "architecture" to generate meaningful, timely financial reporting, improving the overall financial management, compliance, and discipline of the organization. Hiring of a higher level management information system director will improve organizational capability and reporting.

Key Information

Date, years, and stage of VPP Investment:
April 2004; 4 years (complete)
Capital committed and disbursed by VPP:
$3,385,507 committed and funded
Revenue increase and % budget growth:
$7.6 to $12 million — 57% in four years
Leveraged funding:
Expansion to new places and coverage:
Two new centers in DC and Maryland. Pending formal relationship with Washington Adventist Hospital.

Case Study

From Organic Growth to Strategic Growth

In the more than 20 years since Mary's Center founding, the organization has expanded from serving several hundred pregnant women a year to serving 16,000 low-income, immigrant families whose linguistic and cultural needs would otherwise go unmet by public or private health care and social services systems.

Today, Mary’s Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), serving people from all over the city with an emphasis on providing primary care and educational and social services to underserved, underinsured, and uninsured immigrants, primarily from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It operates two clinic locations in Wards 1 and 4 in Washington, D.C., a mobile health unit that provides services for those unable to get to the clinics, and a new, comprehensive medical and social services clinic in Montgomery County, Maryland, that opened its doors in June 2008.

While Mary’s Center has grown over the years to become a widely respected and recognized leader in providing health care and other services to low-income immigrant families, its growth had been organic. The process of becoming a Federally Qualified Health Center in 2004 was the beginning of major change for the organization.

The FQHC designation provided a significant infusion of capital annual funding and the ability to see many more patients. The organic growth that Mary’s Center had experienced up until this point would not carry the organization forward in the ways that it needed and wanted to go. FQHC status and requirements also provided a good impetus for the VPP investment to help Mary’s Center grow in a more intentional and structured way.

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